JUNE 15, 2016 PITTSBURGH PA
Posted below are my photos from the historic Penguins’ Stanley Cup Parade in downtown Pittsburgh. We arrived early (about 9:30 a.m.) and stood in front of the City-County Building. The parade didn’t start until 11:30. This tends to get tiring (especially if you don’t bring a chair which is a drag to bring in the first place) so you talk to strangers and photograph things that have nothing to do with the parade. The crowd grew and grew and grew.
Even though we had front row “seats,” 400,000 people tend to get in your way. It makes it hard to get the pictures you want to get like when Crosby got out of his vehicle, walked up to Malkin’s a few yards ahead and handed him the Stanley Cup. Then Crosby went back to his car and got out the Conn Smyth trophy. Everyone started yelling, “MVP! MVP!” (For the uninitiated, the Conn Smyth goes to the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.)
Then we tried to get close to the stage which was impossible largely because half of the 400,00 were already there and everyone else had the same idea.
At least, we got some photos of one of the giant TV screens set up for the public and heard the speakers including the Punjabi DJ from Toronto call out “Boninoboninobonino!!”
It doesn’t take a lot to get a crowd going:)
The parade ended about 1:30 and it was great to be a part of it.
Departure was uneventful except for long lines at the terminal. There were fairly long lines at the airport, too, but they weren’t too bad. The lines moved.
The drive from Galveston to the airport was the same: strip malls, restaurants, car dealerships; hotels; motels and the Greek Orthodox Church which our driver called “beautiful.” She also wore a rhinestone pin which spelled out the word “Texas.”
She was our unofficial tour guide on our way to George Bush Airport. Texas, she said, has the tallest building in the world that is not located in a city. The Texans football team is one of the hottest in the country, according to her, so she got into sports.
She also told us that the cost of gas inTexas is $3.05 in spite of the many oil refineries there. I wanted to laugh when I think of the cost of gas in Pittsburgh.
It’s hard to imagine that earlier today we were on the Mariner of the Seas and earlier than that we were in the warm beautiful western Caribbean. I heard that it was still cold inPittsburghand that the snow from the week before hadn’t melted as yet.
For one of the few winters of my life, I experienced summer during the cold winter months. I recommend it.
Goodbye the pampered life.
- Hat, crown, beads and noise makers for New year’s Eve celebration
It’s the last day of 2012 and we’re spending it on the Mariner of the Seas sailing the Western Caribbean. Early in the morning, it feels like any other day on board a cruise ship.
We ate breakfast at the Windjammer and sat by the big picture window watching the sea go by. All we could see was waves of blue sea for miles and miles (and I mean blue).
We couldn’t stay away from the shops before going to the pool. I bought a party dress because tonight is formal night. I promised myself that I wouldn’t but anything for my self but it was a promise I didn’t have to keep. The dress is short, sleeveless, and black with silver sequins at the neck and hem.
The pool was very busy this morning. The upper level has a track for walking and jogging. It was a little cool but it didn’t stop anyone from trying to get a tan, jump in the hot tubs, eat frozen yogurt, swim, drink, and watch the Fab Abs (Females Only) Contest.
About eight women of all ages, sizes and shapes strutted – or tried to strut – their stuff. The one thing they all had in common was guts and in the end, the oldest woman in the group won the cup: a RC mug.
Andrea had never seen an ice show before (hockey games excluded) and so we went to see the4:30show at the Savoy Theatre at one of two theatres on the ship. I wasn’t expecting it but it was a good entertaining show.
The costumes were very colorful. Each skit or set had its own theme and color scheme: black, sliver and white for the Russia Cossack routine and rainbow colors for the Clowin’ Around skit, etc.
Waiters and waitresses took your order for drinks and bring them to your seat. (Please don’t forget to add a tip.) Andrea had to order a CokeJ
Pretty soon, though, she can order something else.
It’s just unofficial observation on my part but there are a lot of families on this cruise as well as the requisite senior adults and/or couples. I don’t know what I expected.
We were riding the elevator after the show when I heard Andrea say, “Aww…”
I looked down and saw a small pink baby carriage. I peered under the hood and saw a long-haired puppy. I’m not sure about its breed but she wore a pink ribbon in her hair.
“How does she like the cruise?” I tried to hide my surprise at the dog’s mode of transportation.
“The first day was an adjustment but she’s getting used to it now,” her owner responded.
Later, I asked Andrea,
“Who would want to bring her dog on a cruise?”
“She just loves her dog,” Andrea said.
Another woman carried a fake dog with her wherever she went. Sometimes her husband/companion held it for her. I assume the dog was battery-operated because it would move its long-haired head slowly. The dog looked like a sheep dog only smaller.
I wondered if this was some kind of therapy for the owner. She was too old to play with toys.
Our attendant dropped off an itinerary of events and other information for us. There were many parties/event scheduled for the evening and of course, a balloon-drop on the Promenade.
At 6:30 we went to dinner at the Sound of Music, true to schedule. My dinner choices included a light mushroom and cheese crepe; a salad of winter greens with walnuts and light vinaigrette; baby rack of lamb with string beans and root vegetables and a hazelnut coffee mousse for dessert with a cup of coffee. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Everything was excellent in taste and presentation and not only on this night but every night. I never had a bad meal there.
Andrea loved her choices, too: beef consommé; herb-encrusted Alaska halibut with side veggies that I can’t remember and a light strawberry banana torte for dessert and a Coke. (The day after tomorrow, she gets to really drink.)
She ate everything so it must have been good.
While we were eating there was a parade in the lower level of the restaurant. I didn’t see it (and Andrea had gone to the restroom) because we were on the upper level and I didn’t feel like running to the railing. It didn’t last long.
A live band played every night in the lower level.
We started talking to a couple from California sitting at the table next to ours. There names were Kristin and Paul. They were surprised that we had come all the way from Pittsburgh. They were from San Diego. They were curious about Pittsburgh.
I told them I loved the city because it has a community-oriented feel to it but I didn’t love the winters. They wanted to know why and I cited the difficulty navigating the hills when the municipal authorities can’t get it together to plow.
Kristin told me a little about the history of California which has a different history from the eastern US, California had originally been founded by Europeans who established missions to help the Native Americans.
They also mentioned how warm the weather was in San Diego. That city doesn’t really experience weather changes.
I have a photo of Mike who grew up inCalifornia and Hawaii until the age of 7 or 8, wearing shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas Day. This was when my father-in-law was in the Navy and stationed in California.)
Of course, we also talked about the Steelers, Chargers and Penguins.
There was down time until the festivities began so we went back to our room. Andrea took the opportunity to re-do her hair for the zillionth time.
There are several bars on some of the decks. We stopped in and listened to the music and moved on to the next one (except Ellington’s because Andrea isn’t into jazz). Some of them allowed smoking so we didn’t linger too long in those. Smoking makes me sick.
We passed the Champagne Bar on the Promenade deck.
“On January 2, we’ll go in there first,” I said to Andrea.
After that we dropped in the Dragon’s Lair (Michael Jackson Tribute); Latin American dance music; Country and Western Music at Studio B and the party on the Promenade deck where the balloons will drop. Fittingly for us, the balloons are in black and gold.
The Promenade consisted of wall-to-wall people – young, old and in-between.
Waiters and waitresses were giving out free glasses of champagne. One underage kid picked one up and the waiter took it right off of him. A jazz band played and they were very good.
The crowd was proportionately as large as aTimes Square crowd although the Promenade is a bit smaller. Now I know how it feels to be sardines or anchovies stuffed in a can. At the count down to midnight the balloons dropped one or two at a time – a malfunction of something or other, I guess.
Clink! Clink! of the champagne glasses. All of a sudden, the remaining balloons dropped all at once. Auld lang syne was over by then. Balloons were batted back and forth or the kids stepped on them. Pop! Pop!
We revisited our previous stops but most of the crowd on the Promenade deck didn’t die out until much later.
A note on the fashions of the evening: there was mostly short evening gowns were prominent although there were long gowns, too, on women of all ages. The color black dominated as did silver and gold sequined attire; white and neutrals like champagne were and beige were favored, too. I didn’t see too many bright colors although I remember a long, yellow gown floating by. I think I saw red, too. I saw some lace and dotted Swiss material, sheer tops, sleeveless gowns, and skinny straps but not too many strapless numbers. Women were wearing platforms, high heels and flats.
I wondered how the puppy in the buggy celebrated New Year’s Eve. Finely ground filet mignon with a magnum of Perrier water? Just wondering.
Tomorrow: New Year’s Day
A walking zombie – that’s what I was going to become but Andrea and I agreed to stay up from Saturday night into Sunday morning and beyond. We arrived at Pittsburgh International Airportaround 2:00or3:00 a.m.Sunday, December 30, 2012.
I kind of snoozed on a couch on the upper level or watched people arriving to do the same thing I was doing. I’m naively surprised at the number of people flying at that time of night (or is it day)? Eventually, we went down to get zapped for weapons of mass destruction otherwise known as a security check and then headed to the waiting area for United Airlines.
I tried to snooze in the flight to Houston,Texas but it was uncomfortable. It couldn’t be because I slept sideways in my seat.
Once we arrived at George Bush Airport, I had to go hunting for Royal Caribbean employees who were to guide us to the motor coach which would take us to Galveston.
After much searching and telephoning, he found us. We chatted with a couple from Edmonton, Alberta until we boarded the bus.
The drive to Galveston is about an hour and a half long so I figured I would see the realTexas. The real Texas is flat. Living in Pittsburgh, I always notice flat terrain. Other areas of Texas may not be but this stretch of road was flat. Grassy areas were brown but there was a lot of greenery otherwise. There was an endless series of strip malls, auto repair shops, hotels, palm trees, restaurants and a Big Fat Greek Orthodox Church. The round gold dome and the mosaic icon over the doorway told me this was definitely not a restaurant. Next to it was a couple of white buildings with freestanding white columns. Well, some were standing and the rest lay on the ground. I guess the columns gave the property an “ancient ruin” look.
We zipped through the city of Houston for about 10 minutes. My third snooze was interrupted by our arrival at Galveston harbor. Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas was docked next to a ship from the Carnival line. Waterslides stood on top of Carnival’s top deck ready for those passengers who didn’t suffer from vertigo.
The customs house in Galveston was painted white with blue trim. It was a far cry from the dingy customs house in New York harbor that I remember from my childhood. There must have been thousands of people checking in and boarding their respective ships but the lines kept moving.
Once on board, we went straight to our stateroom. It was small but nice with a TV and a safe. We looked around the ship. It was beautiful and even elegant. Each deck is decorated differently and there are lots of sculptures, paintings, watercolors, bas relief, vases, prints, ceramics….There are marble floors, hardwood floors, carpeting, tile….
There are two sets of elevators: one is enclosed while the other is all glass. From the glass elevator you can see the core of the ship which consists of decks 3 through 8. (Below deck 3 is uninteresting although the ship’s doctor is located there.) Above 8 is one more floor of staterooms and above that is the pool area. The pool area has two decks (9 and 10) and the gym, spa and game room are on that upper deck, too. The very top (which we never got to see) contained the miniature golf course, basketball court, etc.
When we first boarded the ship we entered via the Top Hat and Tails Restaurant which looks exactly what its name implies. It’s no burger joint. The waiters held wine lists which they were eager for us to look at.
(“I’m putting on my top coat; I’m tying up my bow tie, dancing my tails…” Fred Astaire sang in Top Hat. Check out all his dance routines on YouTube.)
Our next stop was deck 5, called the Promenade. The area was decorated with a giant Christmas tree and other holiday decorations. From deck 8 where our room was located you can see several floors below with a huge colorful cascading glass chandelier that I came to photograph a lot as its centerpiece. The chandelier has several components as it hangs from deck 8 down to deck 3.
We ate lunch at the Windjammer, the super duper buffet of the Mariner. Purell hand sanitizers grace the front entrance and the hosts practically insist you use the sanitizer before you enter the restaurant.
The shops weren’t scheduled to open until the ship sailed so we went to check out the pool area. It became our favorite spot, or one of them, during the trip. There’s a giant TV, two bars on each level, hot tubs, deck chairs galore and a pool, too.
A band was playing and an activities leader (whatever they call them) was teaching the crowd line dances. I didn’t participate but Andrea did only she didn’t need the lesson. It was fun to watch, though a lack of sleep was starting to up with me.
Then it was announced that everyone had to attend a mandatory fire drill. All it involved, though, was having the passengers walk down the steps to their designated area (ours was the Sound of Music Restaurant) where we learned how to use a life jacket.
Our designated restaurant for dinner was the Sound of Music Restaurant which displayed costumes from the play/movie (reproductions, I’m sure). There was one discreet Purell hand sanitizer stand at the entrance. We have a preplanned reservati on for6:30 pmevery evening. I thought that it was beautifully decorated much like Top Hat and Tails. The waiters/waitresses wore black pants, white long sleeved shirts and black vests. Andrea giggled when the waiter placed a napkin on her lap and held out her chair for her to sit.
I chose a bottle of white wine, a Pinot Grigio to be served every evening until it runs out. I sniffed the bouquet and tasted the wine before the waiter poured me a glass. Since I only drink one glass per evening if at all, it should last a while. On our first evening, I had the catch of the day which happened to be bass and it also happened to be a low calorie selection.
Andrea selected a vegetarian Indian dish. I had the watermelon gazpacho soup and she chose the Tortilla soup. No dessert for either of us although I had to have a cup of coffee. I hadn’t had coffee since the morning of December 29, 2012!
Our ship finally sailed at5:00 pmto no fanfare. I expected to hear bells, whistles, fog horns, and/or fireworks…something. We pulled away from Galveston which gave us a landscape view of the city. It is nondescript (no hills) but I snapped a photo as we sailed away. It’s a town that exists because of the harbor, IMO.
The shops opened and we did a little bit of shopping. All the stores are located on the Promenade deck. We were looking for conditioner. the first shop we went into didn’t have any. What?! No hair conditioner? Panic set in! But we found some in another shop.Whew! Other people were shopping for hair conditioner, too.
We also visited several lounges (two more days before Andrea can legally drink) just to see what was going on for a while and then we crashed.
Tomorrow: New Year’s Eve